TIME viral

This Is the Awesome Sound You’ll Hear When You Skip Stones on a Frozen Lake

It's probably not what you'd expect

Cory Williams, who runs a YouTube channel all about life in Alaska, made a very interesting discovery lately: skipping rocks on a mostly frozen lake leads to a surprisingly cool sonic experience (skip to 3:45 in the video to hear). Williams was totally not expecting the sound, which is kind of like a laser or some kind of chirping bird. Watch as he gets really, really excited about this revelation and then searches for more stones so he can hear the sound again.

Though this experience was new to Williams, several other people have tried it and had similar results:

Read next: This Woman Can Sing Two Notes at Once and It’s Eerily Beautiful

TIME People

Missing Hiker Rescued After 3 Days in Washington Mountains

Paula Reuter was rescued after she was missing for 3 days in the Washington Mountains.
Paula Reuter seen here in this undated photo was rescued after she was missing for 3 days in the Washington Mountains. AP

Paula Reuter had set out for an 11-mile hike near but lost track of the trail

A stranded hiker survived on mushrooms and bark for three days until smoke signals led to her rescue in a Washington state mountain range late Thursday.

Paula Reuter had set out for an 11-mile hike near Snoqualmie Pass with her two dogs Monday morning but lost track of the trail, she told NBC News affiliate King 5. The King’s County Sheriff’s Office began searching for Reuter on Wednesday.

The 21-year-old hiker said she spent two days trying to rediscover the trail, but on Wednesday decided to stay put and ignite a smoke signal. “I had seen the helicopter and I…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME nature

Arizona Suffers Mosquito Swarms Following Heavy Storms

Jim Will
A vector-control specialist inspects mosquitoes collected from traps recovered from various locations around Maricopa County on Oct. 8, 2014, at the Maricopa County Environmental Services Vector Control Division offices Ross D. Franklin—AP

"We're a smorgasbord for these heat-seeking missiles with wings"

Recent torrential rainstorms in Arizona have created the perfect conditions for a mosquito infestation that is plaguing Phoenix residents.

Maricopa County officials say they have received more than 10,000 complaints this year, which is almost double the rate for 2013, the Associated Press reports.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of mosquitoes, a majority of them are floodwater mosquitoes. Those are the ones that have been generating most of the calls,” said County Environmental Services Department spokesman Johnny Dilone.

Residents say the infestation is the worst they’ve ever seen. “We’re a smorgasbord for these heat-seeking missiles with wings,” Maricopa resident Leslie Meehan told AP. “I’ve got 32 bites on one arm.”

Environmental officials say they are setting out mosquito traps in order to test for West Nile virus, which can cause flulike symptoms, paralysis and even death in humans and animals.

Six people have died and 44 people have been infected from the virus in Maricopa County this year.

Dilone says that even in the Arizona desert people need to check their homes to remove or cover any standing pools of water — buckets, swimming pools or pet water dishes — where mosquitoes could lay eggs.

[AP]

TIME

Raging Wildfire in Orange County Causes Mandatory Evacuations

Southern California Wildfire
More than 280 firefighters are aided by water dropping helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft as they battle a 1,300-acre fire in Silverado Canyon, Calif., in Southern Orange County, Sept. 12, 2014. Mark Boster—Los Angeles Times/AP

As of Saturday morning the Silverado Canyon fire was just 10% contained as mandatory evacuations were underway

By 9 a.m. Saturday, a large fire in Orange County, California had scorched 1,600 acres less than 24 hours after it had started, prompting mandatory evacuations of homes in Silverado Canyon.

Three firefighters suffered minor injuries but were released from the hospital, reports the Los Angeles Times. Thirty homes were evacuated along Silverado Canyon Road, and the fire was just 10% contained as of Saturday morning, according to the Orange County Register. More than 700 firefighters are now battling the blaze.

Fueled by hot weather and tinder-dry vegetation, the brush fire has spread into difficult-to-reach terrain, firefighters said, burning chaparral and oak trees that “had not burned in several years,” Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Larry Kurtz said.

Water-dropping aircraft assisted firefighters trying to hold back flames atop ridgelines near Corona.

The fire was first reported Friday morning at 10:32.

[LA Times]

 

TIME natural disaster

How 10 Seconds Could Save Lives During Earthquakes

Napa Area Businesses Continue Recovery Effort From Earthquake
A crack runs down the center of an earthquake-damaged street in Napa, Calif., on Aug. 26, 2014 Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

California eyes warning system after latest quake

Ten seconds could save your life. That’s the message from researchers developing an early-warning system in California that could eventually alert the public an earthquake is about to hit.

The research program, run by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in partnership with several California universities, is still in beta form, but was put to the test last weekend when an earthquake struck the Napa area. At the University of California, Berkeley, to the south, the system detected and sent out a warning signal to the scientists about six seconds before the tremor reached the area.

The technology behind the system uses sensors across the state that detect early waves from an earthquake before the main event strikes. While it’s not possible to issue warnings to those located right next to an earthquake epicenter, those further away could be warned seconds or even a minute in advance.

Doug Given, USGS’s early-earthquake-warning coordinator, says 10 seconds might not seem like a lot, but it could be enough for people to take cover before an earthquake hits and for public services and private industry to take precautionary steps. This might include systems that force elevators to let passengers off at the closest available floor and those that let first responders know they should open garage doors ahead of tremors so they can quickly begin search-and-rescue missions afterward. Given says other applications include letting hospitals know an earthquake is coming, so they can prepare doctors and patients. “If you’re in an MRI machine, you might want them to pull you out before it starts shaking hard,” says Given. Likewise, he says surgeons performing delicate operations — on eyes, for example — could have notice that their work is about to be interrupted.

“Imagine being a dental chair,” says Margaret Vinci, manager of the Office of Earthquake Programs for the California Institute of Technology, one of the colleges partnering with USGS. “Would you not want that dentist to pull that drill out of your mouth?”

Given and Vinci also say a statewide early-earthquake-warning system could tell rapid transit systems to slow trains to help prevent derailments. A similar alert program exists in earthquake-prone Japan, where earthquake warning alerts automatically slow bullet trains.

Japan and Mexico are two countries that already have the kind of earthquake-warning system California lacks. Devastating quakes in those countries prompted major public investments in such systems. As recently as April, residents in Mexico City had a full minute of warning before a 7.2-magnitude quake 170 miles away rocked the capital.

California’s program, though, is hobbled by lack of adequate funding, according to Given, who says the program needs an investment of $80 million over five years and about $12 million a year to maintain operations. California passed a law recently calling for a statewide early-earthquake-warning system to be set up, but did not provide funding. Given says the program currently includes about 400 sensors set up around the state, but needs at least double that figure for the warning system to be fully functional. “We hope we will be the first country that builds its system before the big earthquake rather than after,” Givens says.

Investments in the system itself wouldn’t include spending by local governments and private businesses that would need to establish response plans, and possibly automated systems, to take advantage of the USGS warnings. As for the public, earthquake warnings could be sent out via text message and through local television and radio stations, but that too requires advance planning and spending. Vinci says if the early-warning system was fully funded, it could be ready for public consumption in two years.

In the meantime, researchers involved in the project are asking public and private organization to test whether the alert system works and offer suggestions about how to improve it. Disneyland, the city of Long Beach and the Bay Area Rapid Transit system are among those serving as testers. Researchers are also studying which kinds of warning sounds and signals work best with the public. When activated, the existing system, which is called ShakeAlert and which runs on computers for those involved in the program or serving as beta testers, kicks in to tell users an earthquake is coming, how soon it will happen and how severe the shake will be. The warning includes a loud quick buzz with a speaker saying, ”Earthquake! Earthquake!”

“Right now the ShakeAlert we have now is kinda scary,” Vinci says.

TIME nature

Woman Hospitalized After Massive Sinkhole Swallows Car Whole

A man looks at a car as it falls into a sinkhole on McKnight Road in Ross Township of Pittsburgh on Aug. 12, 2014.
A man looks at a car as it falls into a sinkhole on McKnight Road in Ross Township of Pittsburgh on Aug. 12, 2014. Roxanne Oglesby—Reuters

"I felt a thunk"

A Pittsburgh woman escaped her car in the nick of time, eyewitnesses said, after a massive parking lot sinkhole opened up beneath the car and it sunk into a water-filled pit. Photos showed the back of the sedan sunken nearly up to its front wheels in a hole roughly three times the car’s width.

The woman reportedly escaped through the passenger window and was listed in good condition.

“I felt a thunk,” the car’s owner, Natalie Huddleston, told KDKA news, “and all of a sudden I was tilted and I felt movement, I was swaying, I kept drifting back and realized I was stuck in this hole.”

[KDKA]

TIME Australia

Whale Collisions Spark Calls for Ship Speed Limits in Australia

A humpback whale breaches the surface by propelling most of its body from the sea in Hervey  Bay
A humpback whale breaches the surface off the East Coast of Australia on Aug. 7, 2006 Russell Boyce—Reuters

Instances of gruesome whale collisions have prompted a conversation about whether to impose speed limits for ships along Australia's coast

Right now, some 20,000 humpback whales are enjoying the warm waters of Australia’s East Coast, where they migrate every year during Antarctica’s winter to feed, breed and calve. They are the product of a wildly successful conservation program launched in 1979 that brought the humpback from the brink of extinction following decades of industrial slaughter.

The species’ recovery has also given birth to a thriving whale-watching industry that generates some $300 million and attracts 1.6 million people per year. From the beaches of Sydney, where surfers rub shoulders with the 30-ton mammals, to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, where a rare albino humpback called Migaloo was last seen, the whales are a symbol of Australia’s love for the ocean and how far it has come from the cruel, unsustainable ways of its past.

But the humpback’s stellar comeback has also led to increasingly frequent “whale strikes” — collisions with ships that cause gruesome propeller lacerations and even sever spines. It is part of a global phenomenon seen from such places as Sri Lanka, the Mediterranean and the U.S. Atlantic coast, where overlap between busy shipping lanes and whale habitats has left trails of mutilation.

In early May, a Norwegian cruise liner unknowingly dragged a dead sei whale, which had become caught on its bulbous bow, into the Hudson River. Three days later, another sei was found attached to a container ship docking near Philadelphia. In June, a humpback known as Max that had been visiting Alaska’s Glacier Bay for 39 years was found floating dead in the ocean with its jawbone nearly cut off. The discovery became the subject of a investigation by Alaskan wildlife officials to identify the ship that killed Max — a near impossible task given that most whale strikes by large ships go unreported or unnoticed. Cambridge-based International Whaling Commission, the world authority on the subject, has struggled to quantify the problem. It can’t provide any kind of accurate numbers but nevertheless holds that for some whale species and populations, strikes “may make the difference between extinction and survival.”

Whale strikes don’t currently pose a tangible risk to humpback populations in Australia. But a controversial government decision to expand a series of coal ports along the coast of the Great Barrier Reef — the humpback’s most important East Coast calving ground — is projected to massively increase sea traffic over the reef. And that will spell carnage for humpbacks, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which is calling for the introduction of 10-knot speed limits for large ships in two key humpback habitats near two of the largest ports.

“From our organization’s point of view, the killing of even one whale is an issue,” says IFAW campaign manager Sharon Livermore.“But from the evidence we do have of whales that have been found dead or stranded, we know the number of reported strikes represents a small number of the actual number being injured or killed.”

“Calls for speed limits are very much warranted,” adds Joshua Smith of the Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit. “We know humpbacks are already in conflict with shipping, and if you do the maths with these new megaports, you can see the problem is going to get much worse. A national whale-strike strategy is a sound precautionary principle.”

IFAW points to a similar initiative off the coast of the Georgia-Florida border, where 10-knot speed limits on large ships were introduced in 2008 to prevent collisions with critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. Thirteen rights were killed as a result of strikes in the 18-month period before the speed limit went into effect, compared to zero fatalities reported in the six years that have passed since. And in New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf, the Port of Auckland has introduced voluntary speed restrictions to protect critically endangered Bryde’s whales after scientists estimated a 10-knot speed limit would reduce strike fatalities by 75%.

But Sheila Peake, a lecturer in ecotourism and environmental science at the University of the Sunshine Coast, says not enough is known about the humpback’s migratory routes in Australia to make speed restrictions effective.

“You can’t just say if we introduce speed limits for ships in one or two areas we will reduce whale strikes,” Peake says. “Not enough is known about the areas whales pass through to get there from Antarctica. And if you lay speed limits across the whole East Coast, it will have quite an impact on other industries and recreational fishing.”

Simon Meyjes, CEO of Australian Reef Pilot, a company that’s been guiding large ships through the Great Barrier Reef for more than a century, says 10-knot speed limits in front of coal ports will have next to no impact on reducing whale strikes because coal carriers steam at maximum speeds of 10 to 12 knots.

“I would say these slow ships account for two-thirds of the traffic on the Great Barrier Reef. The other third are faster container ships, livestock carriers and passenger ships that steam at 17 to 19 knots. They can’t be operated for long periods of time at 10 knots as the speed falls within those ship’s critical vibration range. It would risk major damage to their equipment and make it difficult to keep our supermarket shelves stocked.”

Meyjes also questions IFAW estimates that the number of ships passing through the Great Barrier Reef will almost double by 2020. “Shipping increases only as fast as the overall economy grows, so all these stories about huge increases are simply misguided,” he says. “In the last 10 years, traffic on the reef has increased an average of 3.5% a year.”

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority tells TIME it is liaising with IFAW and the shipping industry on the viability of speed limits, but that “given shipping is an internationally regulated industry … measures need to be linked to the strategic direction of the International Maritime Organization and supported by strong documentation.” In other words: Australia is unlikely to introduce speed limits until the movement to prevent whale strikes gains global traction.

In the sun-kissed Whitsunday archipelago 1,000 km north of Brisbane, Bill Hutchinson weaves and bobs his high-speed catamaran through waters literally heaving with humpbacks, carefully abiding to a local law that requires him to remain at least 300 m away from whales. In 44 years on the job, he’s never hit one.

“How do you avoid them? You can’t,” he says. “When the mothers are feeding their calves on the surface, they’re really docile. So we keep as far away as possible. But if it gets cloudy or the water gets choppy, visibility suffers. You can’t be watching out for whales all the time.”

TIME weather

WATCH: Lightning Strike in NYC Caught on Video

You may not be able to capture lightning in a bottle, but you can certainly post it on YouTube

TIME Stem Cells

Blockbuster Stem-Cell Studies Retracted Because of Fraud

Editors of Nature, which published two papers claiming to generate stem cells in a simplified way, are retracting both papers after data was “misrepresented.”

In an editorial published on Wednesday, editors at the scientific journal Nature announced their decision to retract two papers that received wide media attention, including by TIME, for apparently dramatically simplifying the process of creating stem cells. Genetically manipulating older, mature cells are the only confirmed methods for reprogramming them back to their embryonic state, but in the Nature papers, Japanese scientists claimed to have accomplished the feat by physical means, using an acidic bath or physical stress.

Several months after the papers were published, one of the co-authors, from the RIKEN Institute, called for their retraction, saying “I’m no longer sure that the articles are correct.” RIKEN’s own probe determined that the studies’ lead author, Haruko Obokata, was guilty of misconduct.

At the time, Nature launched its own investigation into concerns that some of the figures in the paper contained errors, and that parts of the text were plagiarized. The journal now says that “data that were an essential part of the authors’ claims have been misrepresented. Figures that were described as representing different cells and different embryos were in fact describing the same cells and the same embryos.”

MORE: Stem-Cell Scientist Guilty of Falsifying Data

While scientific journals have peer-review processes to check researchers’ work, they rely on the fact that the scientists are presenting their data in their entirety and without any biases—something that didn’t occur in this case.

Nature’s editors say they are reviewing their review process and intend to improve on the way they select articles to ensure that such mistakes are minimized.

TIME nature

Beachgoers Beware: The Great White Shark Population Is Growing Again

Great White Sharks
This undated photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a great white shark encountered off the coast of Massachusetts Greg Skomal—AP

There are over 2,000 living off the coast of California alone, according to recent studies

New research suggests that the population of great white sharks off both coasts of the U.S. is growing again after years on the decline.

One report ventures that there are over 2,000 great whites living off California — 10 times the amount estimated by a recent Stanford University study. On the other side of the country, scientists haven’t been able to conclude an exact population size, but estimations suggest that the sharks in the Atlantic are rebounding, after a significant drop in the 1970s and 1980s because of commercial shark fishing.

The upswing is likely the result of wildlife-preservation efforts over the past two decades, although conservationists are hesitant to celebrate the news. For one, the great white belongs to a group of aquatic species that typically struggle to recover from sharp declines in population. What’s more, their generally reclusive behavior often requires scientists to rely on guesswork when keeping tabs on them — and a dearth of historical information doesn’t help

“They’re back on the way up, but to be honest, I don’t think any of us know what ‘up’ is,” George Burgess, a Florida-based researcher, told Live Science. “The fact is, we have no real idea what [the population] was before we started screwing around with the environment on both coasts.”

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